Hope always springs eternal in the minds of theatre folk and especially producers. That may be just as well after two years blighted by pandemic closures and ensuing uncertainty.
Where others might have considered a new, more conservative calling, doughty stage impresarios have continued to seek opportunities to excite audiences and, in doing so, persuade them to part with lots of hard-earned cash in exchange for fresh delights.
In the last week, three announcements have caught the eye with their brave and innovative outlooks.
Soho Place Theatre
In normal times, Nica Burns is a beacon of light, filled with optimism and keen to promote the joys of theatre to all. When the pandemic came along, she was in the vanguard of those trying to make the best of a very bad job.
Now, as theatres slowly emerge from a disastrous period during which they struggled but against the odds most somehow survived, she is cheering up the community with news of what is described as the “first new build West End theatre in 50 years”.
While this might be slightly overselling wonderful new project, given that the Bridge is a new build theatre, albeit spiritually rather than geographically located in the West End, and several other theatres have opened in the area in existing buildings, the announcement is still a cause for celebration.
Perhaps ironically, the community can thank the government and council planners for this venture, since it is part of a major, £300 million mixed development that has grown up as a result of the creation of Crossrail’s Elizabeth Line.
The 602-seat Soho Place, located between the Dominion and the Phoenix, opens in the autumn and is going to be a treat.
As Ms Burns proudly proclaims
“The auditorium has the following key qualities:
- Wonderful acoustics
- Perfect sightlines from every seat with no obscured views
- Intimate actor/audience relationship: no seat further than 6 rows from the stage
- Curved auditorium unifying both audience and actors (theatre term ‘the hug’)
- The flexible auditorium can be transformed into a number of different configurations“
It will be fascinating to see how Nimax programmes this relatively small but state-of-the-art theatre as part of its portfolio. The mouth waters at the prospect.
Soho Place isn’t the only new theatre in town. London also welcomes the Marylebone Theatre to the scene.
While this venue has been developed within an existing building, having previously operated as a lecture theatre at the Steiner Institute, close to Regents Park, it is another sign that the theatre industry is re-establishing itself.
Intriguingly, according to the public relations puff, “the theatre intends to carve out a special place on the London cultural scene as a beautiful and grand but intimate setting,” and will operate as both a producing and receiving house, commencing in late September with Tim Supple’s new version of Dmitry, an unfinished and almost unknown work by Schiller.
While London seems intent on launching new buildings, Broadway producers are taking a different approach, concentrating on the shows rather than the settings.
You might have thought that pretty much every type of popular movie, not to mention concept and greatest hits album, had been mined by Broadway shows in recent times. If so, it appears that you would have been wrong.
According to those behind a new stage version of “Stanley Kramer’s trailblazing 1952 Academy Award-wining film” High Noon, their project is the first Western to be seen on a Broadway stage in 85 years, i.e. since before World War Two.
The reason seems pretty obvious. Westerns require long, dusty mainstreets and plenty of space for cowboys to ride horses like maniacs, shoot at each other and woo plucky women.
It will be fascinating to see a) what the writer / director team of Eric Roth and Michael Arden do with the classic Western since these days, live horses in Midtown Manhattan may no longer quite be the thing; b) who they cast to play characters unforgettably given silver screen life by Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly.